From writer/director Pete Docter (Inside Out) comes this love letter to jazz and a rumination about what it means to be human. Voice talent includes Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Phylicia Rashad, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Angela Bassett, Daveed Diggs. Alice Braga, Richard Ayoade, Wes Studi, Graham Norton and NZ's own Rachel House.
Robert "The Walking Dead" Kirkman's second-longest running comic book series gets the animation series treatment with A-list voices by Steven Yeun, J.K. Simmons, Sandra Oh, Seth Rogen, Gillian Jacobs, Andrew Rannells, Zazie Beetz, Mark Hamill, Walton Goggins, Jason Mantzoukas and Mae Whitman, among other notables. Anyone else getting anime vibes?
Musician, Animator, Editor, Filmmaker, Sophie Raymond is all of these and so much more, as she finally follows up the award-winning Mrs. Carey’s Concert, which she co-directed with Bob Connolly, with the 'bio-docu-mation', Recorder Queen.
Set in Kabul in 1998 – when it was under Taliban control – this film gets us in immediately with its exquisite naturalistic animation. The sights – and equally the sounds – of the city’s street life are uncannily vivid.
Given the context, it comes as no surprise that events quickly unfold in a very heavy and brutal way. We witness a woman being stoned to death for “fornication”, and various less stark but crushing examples of the depressing nature of war. All of this is cleverly offset – yet not undermined – by the delicate subtle ‘look’; it’s all pastel or muted colours, like a watercolour painting come to life.
The focus initially is on young and liberal-minded married couple Mohsen and Zunaira. He’s a teacher and she’s an artist. Without giving anything away, let’s just say that a key tragic event changes their lives irrevocably.
There is also another couple at the heart of this story, or rather modern fable: prison guard Atiq and his wife Mussarat, who is dying of cancer. Atiq has a stern and stoical manner, and follows the rules. That is, needless to say, not easy to do in a ‘world’ where people are clubbed with rifles for the slightest infraction, and women are casually whipped in the street. The misogyny and fanaticism are so extreme that a friend of Atiq can advise him that “No man owes anything to a woman”, so he should dump Mussarat and “find a virgin and have children”.
The Swallows Of Kabul is proof – if any were needed after so many prior instances – that animated films can be serious adult art. Occasionally it teeters on the edge of cliche, but then it pulls back and redeems itself. It’s very powerful, and a superb parable, with a lump-in-the-throat ending that’s more moving than most live-action movies. Amidst the ugliness there is beauty here too, both moral and visual. (In the snowcapped mountains and even – somehow – the dilapidated buildings.) Very highly recommended.
The French actor features in two films at the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival, The Swallows of Kabul and The Bare Necessity, plus tells us about his next role in French superhero film, How I Became a Superhero.